Clashes with wolves
Wisconsin wildlife is hounded with unbearable cruelty
SUPPRESSING FREE SPEECH
Joe Brown, an assistant professor of documentary filmmaking at Marquette University, emailed me the bear-baiting video. He’s not sure who sent it to him, but it probably was sent by someone aware that he’s currently at work on Operation Wolf Patrol (wolfpatrolfilm.com), a documentary about the group of the same name.
Founded by animal-rights activist Rod Coronado, the group has volunteers who hike into popular hunting areas to document illegal hunting and atrocities committed by hunters. Such groups are especially important given that policing the state for wolf poaching is something for which the thinly staffed Department of Natural Resources seems to lack the resources and the will.
Naturally, hunters don’t like the Wolf Patrol. Last year, they persuaded the state to adopt a law that some dubbed the “Right to Hunt Act,” which prohibits people from photographing, videotaping or recording hunters on public land. It was backed by the powerful National Rifle Association and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker.
Officially known as Wisconsin Act 346, the law closely resembles so-called “aggag” laws, which prohibit workers from documenting the horrific conditions and torture of animals on so-called “factory farms.” Courts have repeatedly found those laws unconstitutional because they limit free speech.
Earlier this summer, I became a plaintiff — along with Brown and Wolf Patrol volunteer Stephanie Losse — in a lawsuit filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund against Walker, former DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp and Attorney General Brad Schimel. The suit seeks to overturn the “Right to Hunt Act” for violating the First Amendment’s free-speech guarantee. It also seeks an injunction to prevent enforcement of the law.
ALDF director of litigation Matthew Liebman says the right to try engaging someone in conversation is at the heart of the First Amendment. “To not be able to do that at the place that matters most, the place where animals are being killed, I think is a significant infringement” on free speech, Liebman told The Associated Press.
But hunters claim the law is needed to prevent activists from harassing them in ways that interfere with their “sport.” (Of course, in actual sports, both sides know that they’re playing.)
Liebman counters that laws already in place protect hunters and others from harassment.
Ironically, hunters say they’re afraid of the Wolf Patrol, citing